Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Tis the Season to Recruit

Your Board of Directors is the heart and soul of your nonprofit organization - carrying the responsibility for prudent fiscal management, overseeing programs that fulfill your mission, and defining organizational focus. Yet many nonprofit boards operate with woefully small numbers, or with members ill-suited to the required tasks.

Is your board at full capacity? Does everyone show up to meetings? Do you have the expertise - and the energy - you need from the group? Here are some tools for strengthening your board with board recruitment that is constructive and organization-appropriate:
  • Establish a process: Review and update your board job description annually (or be sure to create one if it doesn't exist). Create a job application form that asks pertinent questions for prospective board members. Be sure to develop an annual timetable for board recruitment - and stick to it.
  • Have a full board at all times: Providing adequate resources (staff, volunteers, funding, in-kind donations, energy) is first and foremost a board responsibility. A small board translates into a much smaller circle of contacts, lacks the critical mass for sustaining enthusiasm, and leads to board burnout.
  • Make your search ongoing: Be on the lookout for new members year-round. Consider dedicated volunteers and donors, involved clients, and important community contacts. Keep a list of possibilities. And advertise: put a regular notice in your newsletters and emails saying you are looking for board members who are passionate about your work.
  • Do an honest assessment of your current board: Does the membership reflect the demographics of your community and clients? What kind of expertise do you lack? Use your assessment to identify priorities for new members.
  • Be truthful about the job: Tell your prospective board members that the job involves more than just showing up at an occasional meeting. Far too many nonprofits deliberately underplay the level of commitment involved.
  • Recruit outside the box: Traditionally, boards have looked for lawyers, financial people, donors, or prominent community members - yet these folks are often better as pro bono volunteers on a committee, advisory council, or specific project. Look instead for a mix of generations, geography, and community connections. Find folks who fit your unique organizational culture. Above all, you want someone who will be a team player, is passionate about the work of your agency, and will actually show up for meetings.
These days, nonprofits find themselves so strapped for funding that they rush to recruit folks who are wealthy - yet everyone can learn to fundraise, but not everyone has the temperament or time to do the important work required of a board member. And nonprofits are often so desperate for board members that they'll take anyone with a pulse - yet it's essential to put as much time and planning into choosing a board member as it is with an employee.

Get the board that you need and deserve - with a board recruitment process that is creative, organized, thoughtful, and ongoing.

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